Jesus and the Jolly Roger: Part 6, The Pirate Code of the Kingdom of God

This will be our last post in our "theology of pirates" series.

Let's revisit why many sailors turned to a life of piracy. Press ganged into service at the gun point of an empire, the life of a seaman was basically that of a slave. For these seamen, piracy offered the prospect of freedom. It was this same allure of freedom that also attracted women, who faced oppressions of their own, to the life of piracy.

But a life of piracy offered more than freedom. While life aboard a pirate ship was no utopia, pirate ships governed by the pirate codes were noteworthy for their democratic and egalitarian structures, very different from the ships of empire. Equal voice and fair distribution were values among the pirates, in stark contrast between the hierarchical and unfair distribution experienced on the treasure ships of the empire.

Again, this isn't to deny that pirate ships were filled with violence, simply that the more democratic and egalitarian life aboard a pirate ship was attractive to those pressed ganged into service and who lived a life of forced labor. The dream of a more democratic and egalitarian life under the pirate code was a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven where even the "least of these" are honored and given a voice.

As Jesus said, the kings of the world lord over us. The seamen aboard the treasure ships of empire knew this reality up close and personal. But there shall be no lording over, Jesus said, in the kingdom of God.

We see Jesus' alternative political reality emerge in the early church where members held nothing as his or her own but shared with each who had need. A new world was emerging in the shell of the old.

And who was attracted to the life of the early church? Slaves and women, those who were being lorded over by empire. No wonder they were attracted to the church, a society where lording over and domination were replaced by the care and koinonia of the kingdom.

Oppressed and beleaguered, the first Christians flocked to the church because of the pirate code of the kingdom of God.

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